Women make up a large share of Equity Bank’s management team. How did you achieve such a result?
It’s a testament to women’s inner power. When I consider how much they’ve contributed to Equity’s growth, it’s a given to provide them equal opportunities.
A majority of your customers are female, as well.
Yes, 54% of our customers are female. We’ve created services designed for their needs that have been wildly successful. We are grateful for this recognition and aware that we must give women something in return. They shouldn’t be taken for granted. We need to be attentive to their expectations and understand what barriers are preventing them from using banking services. Women are loyal to companies that keep their promises!
How do you promote inclusion at Equity?
Each and every person has to do their part, starting with men. Equity demonstrates its commitment first and foremost through its initiatives. For instance, in our “Wings to Fly” scholarship programme, which supports close to 40,000 students, we have a strict policy of awarding half of the scholarships to girls. Unfortunately, when it comes to identifying internal talent, for example, women are always in the minority.
Why do you think that is?
Sometimes women aren’t daring enough. Even if they meet just about every requirement for a position, they’re reluctant to apply. Men have less qualms, even if they don’t fulfil all the criteria. This is something we need to resolve through in-house initiatives and even legislation, if need be. Take Kenya, for instance, which imposed a gender quota requiring that at least 30% of corporate board members be female. And it works! Rwanda’s herculean effort to achieve gender parity in government is another success story.
What role should African women play?
They have a great deal of inner strength. They raise every child born on this continent and carry out a disproportionate share of household work. It’s inconceivable to deny them equal opportunities. Every citizen should be advocating for women’s advancement. Women deserve that much. Our foundation is working towards this goal. In partnership with Mastercard, we’ve provided two million women with an 11-week financial education programme that is skills building and life changing. In all, we want to reach eight million women in five years. Fighting for a fairer world is right.
Why are there still so few female CEOs today at major African corporations?
This situation reflects past practices that diminished girls’ opportunities, especially education wise. Radical change is needed. We need to pursue policies that elevate women to senior positions. The first step in this direction is to ensure equal access to education. It’s inconceivable that in some instances, education is still exclusively for boys.
Interviewed by Elini Giokos